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  • John Hodgson

What Is the Definition of Spouse in Ontario?

“What is the definition of spouse in Ontario”? This question sounds straight-forward; any lawyer ought to be able to answer it with ease. Unfortunately, like many legal questions, this question requires the lawyer to answer the question with another question. Any lawyer answering this question should ask why you are asking the question. This is because there are several definitions of “Spouse” in Ontario.

To illustrate my point, let us look at three different statutes in Ontario. All three of these statutes contain a definition of “Spouse”. Two of them contain more than one definition of “Spouse”.

The three statutes we are going to look at are:

  1. The Family Law Act

  2. The Succession Law Reform Act

  3. The Land Transfer Tax Act

Family Law Act

The Family Law Act has two definitions of “Spouse”. They can be found at section 1(1) and section 29. For your convenience, I have set them out below. The first definition of spouse in the Family Law Act has a narrower meaning for matters related to property rights. While the second definition expands the definition for matters relating to support obligations.

Section 1(1): In this Act, “spouse” means either of two persons who,


(a) are married to each other, or


(b) have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right.

Section 29: In this Part, “spouse” means a spouse as defined in subsection 1 (1), and in addition includes either of two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabited,


(a) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or


(b) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the parents of a child as set out in section 4 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.

Succession Law Reform Act

The Succession Law Reform Act also has two definitions of “Spouse”. They can be found at section 1(1) and section 57(1). For your convenience, I have set them out below. The first definition of spouse in the Succession Law Reform Act has a narrower meaning to apply to matters relating to property rights. While the second definition expands the definition for matters relating to support of dependants.

Section 1(1): In this Act, “spouse”, except in Part V, has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Family Law Act.

Section 57(1): In this Part, “spouse” has the same meaning as in section 29 of the Family Law Act and in addition includes either of two persons who were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated by divorce.

Land Transfer Tax Act


Like other statutes, the Land Transfer Tax Act simply refers to the Family Law Act for the definition of “Spouse”. See below.

Section 1(1) “spouse” means spouse as defined in section 29 of the Family Law Act;

The definition used to determine if Land Transfer Tax applies is the expanded definition.

I hope the above illustrates that even questions that sound simple require further inquiry into why you are asking the question. I understand that it can be frustrating asking a question only to have it answered with another question; nevertheless, lawyers would not be doing their job if they simply picked a definition from the above without further investigation.

If you have any questions about the definition of “Spouse” and how it applies to your specific matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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